On “Don’t Close Your Eyes” Jesse Keith Whitley embraces his history by recording one of his father’s most well-known songs and while it’d be easy to say he doesn’t live up to his old man’s legend, that’s an obvious observation because few, if any will ever be able to. Still on this recording, produced by James Stroud, Jesse Keith shows off his ability to sing traditional country and like both of his parents, he’s damn good at it. His strength as a singer is on the ballads on this record, including “I Can’t Drive You From My Mind” and a cover of Valory Recording artist Brantley Gilbert’s “Saving Amy”, but it should be no surprise that he comes off the best on the traditionalist of the tunes on this record, which “Don’t Close Your Eyes” is.
“Where Would I Be” is a mid-tempo song that Jesse Keith Whitley co-wrote with Jon Randall Stewart. It is your standard “I’d be a fool with nothing without you” love song but that’s fine and Jesse Keith Whitley sings the song well. The lead-single and title track, written by Sam Tate, Annie Tate (“If You’re Going Through Hell” and “Moments”) and Southern Pacific’s Sonny LeMaire, suits Jesse Keith well too. It showcases his aptitude at going for the modern country rocker route currently home to Jason Aldean and Brantley Gilbert but it doesn’t ever get completely into that territory, the same which can be said about the closing track “Why The Hell Not.”
With these six tracks on Kentucky Thunder, self-released on Octabrook Records, the child of his namesake father Keith Whitley and Opry legend Lorrie Morgan, Jesse Keith Whitley both embraces his family history while also setting himself up himself with the kind of songs he wants to sing the most, the more modern, uptempo country rockers. And while he does them well - something he proved at a showcase at Nashville’s Hard Rock Café last week - Jesse Keith Whitley was born to sing traditional-leaning country songs.